By: Isa Goldberg
“Radiate my vagina! Do you know who I am?”, Eve Ensler demands of medical practitioners at the Mayo Clinic. After all, The Vagina Monologues, Ensler’s seminal work, has been translated into 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries.
In her new solo act, In The Body of The World, at The Manhattan Theater Club, the audience gets her all to themselves. On one hand her work is intensely intimate, and on the other, it’s a symbolic journey, through which she embodies with us the essence of womanhood.
Her cancer, she compares to rape – to the feeling that your body has been invaded. And from the pain and trauma of both, she finds fodder for empowerment.
This story really begins in war-torn Congo, where Ensler has been invited by a prominent gynecologist treating rape victims. There she meets, the 8-year-old who had been raped multiple times, and the 80-year-old whose legs were broken and pulled out of her sockets by rapists.
In their fight, she discovers a life force so powerful that it will enable her to conquer the cancer that will soon be found growing in her uterus.
Taking us from the Congo, where she is aiding women in building a center for themselves – The City of Joy, they call it – to the cancer ward, Ensler weaves a cathartic tale. If you can imagine ripping though yourself with intense journalistic objectivity, you can appreciate what a magnanimous act this is.
Indeed, her presence is inspiring. That she survives cancer, allows her to return to The City of Joy, and experience the fulfillment of many women’s dreams.
From the implied exoticisms of her on-stage home (Myung Hee Cho, scenic design), with bibelots from China, a red chaise lounge and a gold goddess resting on top of a small table, we move beyond ourselves, into their world.
At the end, she invites us to walk in the tropical garden through which she exits. There, where the world is at peace, we share the joy of women learning to take a stand.
Sensitively and delicately directed by Diane Paulus, Ensler’s piece is exceptional.
IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD *****
Manhattan Theater Club at City Center Stage I
131 W. 55th St., NYC.
Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 7pm, Thu—Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2 pm.
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.
$90. (212) 339-3050. www.manhattantheaterclub.org.
Feb. 6—March 25, 2018
Photo: Joan Marcus